Interview with a true Digital Nomad

One person who is a true Digital Nomad is Claudio Dotta (find him on LinkedIn here). He is a thoroughbred businessman who always sees the glass as half full instead of half empty and then finds the right tweaks to fill it up again. He manages his own business in 3 countries with a total of 7 retail stores selling sunglasses. With customers and vendors he communicates in English, Italian, Spanish or German. When he is not travelling, he lives in Boston, United States and Liestal, Switzerland.

 

Mike: Hi Claudio, welcome to my blog!
Claudio: Hey Mike! Thanks for having me.

Mike: Do you have an office?
Claudio: Yes, I have an office. And I need it mostly as a postal address and to offer a workplace to my staff. I’m in the office at about 50 days per year.

Mike: Where do you work if you are not in the office?
Claudio: I mostly work either from my house in Switzerland or my apartment in Boston. Otherwise from wherever I am, could be a hotel or even the gym.

Mike: I personally like doing phone calls in a place with privacy. Do you feel the same?
Claudio: Yes. I make my important phone calls at home. I have to be able to move around, and sometimes it can be loud when I discuss issues with vendors. My girlfriend always reminds me to calm down.

Mike: You are the epitome of a digital nomad!
Claudio: I can work from anywhere. That that wasn’t the case since day one but developed over time. When I entered my father’s business 8 years ago I went to the office every day. It was important to him that the owner is always present and in the office before employees start coming in. It’s my advantage today that I do not have a big team anymore. My office team consists of one person today.

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A Digital Nomad’s view: Claudio working from the sofa

Mike: Do you think you work more or less as a digital nomad?
Claudio: I hear this question a lot. You have to keep in mind that it’s difficult to compare my situation with somebody employed. My thoughts about my company travel with me wherever I go. There is no off-button. The fact that I am used to work from anywhere and not just in an office doesn’t make this easier. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to switch off and recover.

Mike: What was the driving force for you to become a digital nomad?
Claudio: I got to know my girlfriend who lives in the United States and I wanted to maximise my time with her. I had to organise myself. And the longer I optimised the better it worked. Today, my employees often don’t know where I am. My stores in Europe open at 10am. Nobody is looking for me before 11am usually. When I am in the U.S. I get up at 5am and start to work soon after. Works very well!

Mike: When you start working at 5am, how long is your working day?
Claudio: My workdays usually end around 1pm. Then, I go to the gym. As required I do a few more things in the afternoon, mostly stuff that is not linked to the European timezone.

Mike: So your business days are very long despite the freedom?
Claudio: It depends on how you see it. For the most part, I can freely decide what I do when and where. And I can work from anywhere in the world. That brings along a lot of flexibility and freedom. Throughout a year I do have phases where there is not too much to do for me. For example during the festive season or the summer break. During these times, I work about 3 – 4 hours per day for trouble shooting.

Mike: What are the most important takeaways for newbie digital nomads?
Claudio: Get burning things done immediately, don’t procrastinate. Show your employees that you always support them wherever you are. My employees had to get used to my situation almost more than I did. They had to realise that they can always call me, no matter what time it is.

Mike: How do you communicate with your team?
Claudio: Usually it’s email and over the phone. For urgent matters we use WhatsApp. A few things are done by fax. It’s old fashioned but still convenient.

Mike: You have taken over your dad’s business 8 years ago. What are your main learnings and what would you do different today?
Claudio: We had all imaginable highs and lows. When I started we were wholesaler. Our main vendor cut our contract 3 years before expiry. So we had to restructure the whole company, cut costs and layoff employees. We tried everything and had the legal hick hack in the end, very stressful. Meanwhile we focus on the resales business. Today, I make decisions quicker and clearer. No maybe, no “try again” and “another second chance”. Compared to my competitors my business is very small and I can make decisions without asking anyone and speedy.

Mike: Let’s talk about your stores. Can you influence how many sunglasses you sell on a day, for example through marketing activities or discounts?
Claudio: Producers of the sunglasses I sell define a recommended selling price. Some producers are very strict at checking whether these are applied. The higher the discount the more attractive the offer for the customers. Other important factors are the weather and the location of the store.

Mike: Do you communicate discounts in percentages or do you show the adjusted price?
Claudio: We realised that a discount as a percentage is perceived less attractive than a discount as an adjusted price tag. When I label a pair of sunglasses at EUR 159.- with a 50% discount, I sell less compared to marking the same sunglasses with an adjusted price of EUR 99.-. Customers do not have to compare and calculate in the latter case, they see the resulting number directly. I was very much surprised when we saw this, but the numbers show that’s happening.

Mike: What’s one advice you would give to young professionals?
Claudio: I would recommend them to work abroad and expand their language skills. It does open up your horizon if you work in different cultures and environments and there is a lot to discover out there.

Mike: Claudio, thank you very much for your time and openness. And all the very best with all adventures you are going after.
Claudio: No problem, you’re welcome.

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